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Housing authority facing questions again

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Albany/HV: Housing authority facing questions again
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The Saratoga Springs city council is taking a closer look at spending by the city's housing authority. It comes after questions about spending by the authority's executive director. Our Innae Park was at Tuesday night's city council meeting and has more.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- A new chairman of the board of commissioners for the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority was appointed by the mayor Tuesday night, and he enters the position amid another debate over the agency's spending.

Ken Ivins, former Finance Commissioner for the city, will be taking the place of Dennis Brunelle, whose contract ended April 1st.

Since December, the housing authority has been embattled by different problems and accusations. Brunelle said, "We've done our best to respond."

The latest is the fact that executive director Ed Spychalski sent an agency jeep to his brother's auto shop in Watervliet. The information became known through a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

City councilperson and finance commissioner Michele Madigan said, "I believe his employment contract is based on part of our code of ethics in the city code. And if that's the case, it directly says, prohibits, family members benefiting financially from someone who is on a public board."

However, Brunelle says Spychalski followed protocol.

"The policy is, if you have a relative, you have to declare it to the board, which has to grant approval or a waiver, to continue to use the person as a vendor," said Brunelle.

Brunelle also says J&M was just one of many mechanics the housing authority contracted with and this particular relationship began four years before Spychalski was hired in 2006.

This comes on the heels of other controversies: an audit ordered by the city's mayor, which followed a bed bug infestation at the Stonequist Apartments. The board admitted fault to the latter, though they say they obeyed the established procedures.

Now city councilmembers are getting involved. Since the housing authority is not under the authority of the city council, Madigan is trying to determine who the agency reports to.

She suggested, "A meeting with our state, federal, and local legislators, to kind of bring this to some sort of closure. We need to outline who is responsible for our public board."

YNN spoke to Spychalsky, who says he did nothing wrong in this issue.

In the midst of all the conflicting claims, both parties agree that the audit will reveal all.

Madigan said, "That's hearsay from Mr. Spychalsky and again, I'll leave that up to auditors to determine."

"If half the things we're accused of doing is true, somebody's going to jail," said Brunelle. "Probably myself as chairman. And I would welcome that sentence if it's the case."

He then added, "If it's not true, and we do have a relatively clean audit, no fraud or criminal activity... the people who are making all these allegations have to be held accountable."

The audit by the New York State Comptroller's office is currently underway. It is not known when it will be complete.

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